Bird Flu In Laying Hens May Have Small Consumer Impact

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On April 20, state officials announced the second outbreak of avian influenza in Iowa, this time in a large flock of laying hens in northwest Osceola county.

The first outbreak occurred in turkeys in Buena Vista county, meaning the disease has now appeared in Iowa’s robust egg industry, which produces about twice as many eggs as Ohio, the nation’s second-largest egg producer.

The operation at the site of the new bird flu outbreak in Iowa has a capacity of five point three million birds, though Iowa Ag Secretary Bill Northey believes the number of affected birds is closer to four million.

That means the next steps in Osceola county will be to eradicate about seven percent of Iowa’s laying hen population, and just over one percent of the national layer flock.

Northey says, "For this operation, all those birds will be euthanized, and then we will test that site; make sure that that site is free of the disease before birds can go back into that site, and then we have a six-mile surveillance zone around that site. A radius of six miles, and we’ll check all the birds, domestic birds, within that radius."

Northey says the birds in that quarantined zone will be checked again in three weeks to ensure there’s no new outbreaks in those flocks.

The current strain of avian influenza is not a known threat to human health, and despite the significant number of infected animals, Iowa Poultry Association Executive Director Randy Olson says consumer impact is likely to be small.

He says, "I know this facility particularly produced liquid egg that would have ultimately ended up in baked goods on grocery-store shelves. In that case, the egg is only a minor component of the overall packaged price. So we wouldn't expect to see a massive change as a result of this unfortunate circumstance."

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